A professional hairstylist is someone who inspects a client's hair and scalp, discusses and recommends style options, and prepares treatments as necessary. A well-trained hairstylist can assist you with conditions such as hair breakage or dandruff. This article discusses what’s needed in becoming a hairstylist.
Most women place a lot of trust in their hairstylists than anyone else. In fact, for some women, going out in public with hair that is unbecoming is a serious no! Not only do they depend wholly on their hairdressers to keep them always looking great, but also going to the hair salon is a therapy session for many. People don’t mind sharing their life stories when someone is listening.
So becoming a hairstylist isn’t just about the hair care part. It can also mean becoming a shoulder to lean on for your clients. Like becoming their therapists in a sense or a close friend who is always ready to lend a listening ear and offer advice.
Every hair stylist should have some of the following skills or attributes.
- A great sense of style
- Great interpersonal skills
- Excellent manual dexterity (or good with your hands)
- Willing to learn the technical skills required such as cutting hair, bleaching, coloring, styling, and even beauty.
You’ll also need to do all of the following before you can call yourself a professional hairstylist.
1. Go to Beauty School or Take a Course
In some states in the US, you have to attend a cosmetology course, which has been approved by the state you live in. Many states stipulate that anyone who wants to work in this field must first have a high school Diploma or something equivalent.
Some high schools offer this course to their students. However, you can use your Diploma to attend a hairdressing school of your choice to earn a certification. Courses normally lasts anywhere between nine months to two years.
A 2-year program can culminate into an associate degree. Programs typically cover cutting, shampooing, hair coloring, applying permanent weaves and styling. Some will involve manicuring, cosmetology, skin care, and salon management.
Make sure the program you choose to attend is approved by the state for the purpose of licensing. To find a program, search on the AACS (American Association of Cosmetology Schools) website, and look for those that specialize in hair care.
Becoming a hairstylist is an investment but one that can pay of. Tuition is typically around $6,500 - $10,000 depending on the intensity of the program you select. Also, location may play a role in price (e.g. rural or metropolitan area). The tuition fee in rural areas is usually more than that of metropolitan locations.
In addition, you will need to pay for any tools needed to learn the course similar to college books.
Other courses you might find in a program include:
- Sanitation and sterilization.
- Hair analysis.
- Hair and scalp diseases and disorders.
- Color methods.
- Hair Extensions.
An important point to note is that once you receive your certification, that shouldn’t the end. The world is changing every day and new methods of doing things keep coming up. You will need to keep taking courses throughout your career in order to remain relevant in the industry. Aim to be the best in your field and consume content that inspires you.
2. Obtain a License
After graduating from beauty school, your journey towards becoming a hairstylist isn’t over because you also need a state-issued license.
The requirements for this vary from state-to-state. However, most states require applicants to be at least 16 years of age and complete a state approved cosmetology program or one with reciprocity. Reciprocity is one state's approval of another states certification/training program.
You may have to pass a written and practical exam too. Practical exams will showcase the styling skills you’ve learned.
3. How to Find Your First Job
Time to put your skills to the test by finding a job! While you’re in school, it’s a good idea to work in a salon. This will give you an edge over other candidates and perhaps, the salon you worked for while in school might just hire you permanently.
However, many students graduate and become business owners. Where they rent their own spaces and serve customers. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy job. So make sure to do enough research before venturing into this field.
You may need to take some business studies in addition to your cosmetology certification. That is… if entrepreneurship is a route you want to take. This will teach you how to manage your business better. When seeking employment, you should inquire about what the owners/management are looking for in a staff to know if you can meet their needs with your abilities.
Here are some specifications found in job announcements, which can vary from employer-to-employer.
- Must be motivated and friendly.
- Able to work independently and as a team.
- Have experience in coloring.
- Know the latest salon techniques.
- Must be able to build and maintain strong relationships with customers/clients.
- Excellent sanitation and cleaning skills.
- Knowledgeable about hair care products
Advancing Your Career
Obtaining a professional certification can be beneficial. You can opt to become a specialist in a specific area once you get settled in a career. Many companies offer this specialization such as certified hair colorist, certified in hair extensions, certified in styling, certified in chemical application, etc.
Furthermore, many fresh out of beauty school will start off small, mostly in an entry-level position and that’s expected. But, you can increase your clientele list by taking on more responsibilities where you work. You can advance very quickly if you are hardworking and trustworthy.
Remember that trust is key. People have to trust you with their hair to do business with you. Also, be willing to learn. Some of your clients will know a thing or two so don’t dismiss their ideas. Remember the goal is to be the best at what you do!